April 27, 2007 11:08 AM PDT
Republicans break ranks to oppose tech-backed bill
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Rep. Don Manzullo (R-Ill.), who also voted against both measures, said in an e-mail interview that he was troubled that the bills created eight programs at a cost of more than $3 billion over the next five years. According to a 2005 Government Accountability Office report, 13 federal agencies were already spending $2.8 million on 207 different education programs directly related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, he added.
A House Democratic aide, who asked that his name be withheld, said the criticism from the bills' opponents held little weight because those members tend to dislike federal programs.
Kara Calvert, government relations director for the Information Technology Industry Council, whose members include Apple, Cisco Systems, Intel and Microsoft, said she agreed that government funding for education alone won't help boost high-tech companies' drive to best their foreign competitors. In ITIC's view, Congress also needs to make the R&D tax credit permanent and allow more skilled foreigners to come to American companies on H-1B visas.
Calvert also acknowledged that questions remain about the effectiveness of some existing educational programs, and the government needs to ensure it's channeling its money into areas that are working. Still, "as companies, we invest hundreds of millions of dollars every year in educational partnerships," she said. "We want to make sure our dollars are being matched."
Storme Street, vice president of government relations for the Electronic Industries Alliance, which represents nearly 1,300 large and small companies that span everything from consumer electronics to defense technology, noted that government-funded research programs have spawned any number of "breakthroughs," ranging from wireless Internet access to flat-screen TVs to home security systems.
"Once government researchers discover these nascent technologies, then companies can make the enormous investments to bring these applications to the market, benefiting millions of consumers and taxpayers," she said in an e-mail interview. "Cutting off that initial federal investment would delay these products and services by years, if not decades."
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